Test Drive Unlimited 2
Developed by: Eden Games
Published by: Atari
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Rating: T for Teen
Check out Skillz's chat with the game's director here: http://www.29-95.com/time-suck/story/test-drive-unlimited-2-director-cha...
What makes a video game about driving so cool? First, most of us drive every day. There's nothing cool about a commute from downtown to Katy during rush hour. And goodness, let's hope there is not an accident. No, driving is a pretty normal thing. Drifting, hairpin turns and taking $120K trucks off-road is not normal but is hella fun. And doing all those slick driving moves on the islands of Ibiza and Hawaii are full of win.
Developed by Eden Games and published by Atari, TDU2 builds on what Test Drive Unlimited did - and then some. First, you know the game is about driving. Well, yeah. However, this offering does something that I begged and even blabbed to developers of the PS2/PSP versions of the game about. In the first game, players could buy houses but couldn't really tour their residence. This time around, you can not only tour your residence, but buy furniture, change the flooring, paint the place and really make it your own. Call it a Gran Turismo meets The Sims mashup. It's a welcome feature of the game. The other? Check on your social progress, your clubs, your global recognition via your laptop at your house. You can start the game with your choice of 3 cars - not sure if they change or not - and a dump but you can do whatever you want from that point. If you want to progress, unlock Hawaii and acquire pinks from rivals, it's up to you. And for some, being able to cruise around the Spanish island of Ibiza is all some gamers will want to do.
If you have an online connection, you can race with anyone who wants to race you - or just cruise. It's great therapy to be able to voice chat and roll around with a friend or fellow gamer on LIVE or PSN. You can enter an almost endless amount of multiplayer challenges, developer and user created. Online is seamless most times - but getting booted offline restarted my game.
The graphics are nice. The mountains in the distance look so inviting. And don't talk about the beautiful Mediterranean. The game also features day and night cycles and so much customization that it's dizzying.
The main draw, however, are the whips. There are three classes - classic, asphalt and off-road. The games features several cars, and you can take them wherever you please. You got a Range Rover? You see that mountain? Go, young man. Don't let it stop you. There are no developer roadblocks of sorts - if you can see it, you can probably drive to the top of it.
That's the beauty of Test Drive Unlimited 2. It goes at your own pace. If you want to hit the casino minigame, you can. If you want to cruise and jam on tunes - like I did, for hours - you can. If you want to get your car washed - I did 10 times in a row, mind you - you can do it. You can get cosmetic surgery, buy clothes or more houses and cars, if you want.
There are a few road bumps, though. The review copy I received stuttered a few times and locked up once. As stated earlier, when my DSL went out, I got booted and the game restarted, though it did take me back to the spot where I was. Handling is a mixed bag too. A pro driver in Australia said the handling in the game was unrealistic.
I also missed the motorcycles from the first game, as well as the online marketplace, where you could sell your old cars. That really made the first game a keeper.
The verdict? 8.5 (out of 10). This game offers much more than driving, it offers an experience. Driving million-dollar whips around two islands, and doing whatever you want, when you want to. The best part? On the 360 version, I loaded up my own soundtrack (Keith Sweat "Make it last forever," Art of Noise and a few other gems) and blazed. I long for a Ferrari and can't get one just yet. However, in this game, dreams do come true, even if for only a few hours. If you like driving and like open sandbox games, this game should motor its way into your heart.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I finally got the Casino Online to work - somewhat. Some parts worked - the bar, the store and the cashier - as well as an island race - but the main games didn't function. I've adjusted the score accordingly.